No shampoo? It sounds like a recipe for stinky, greasy, matted hair.
But I’m also a dedicated minimalist, trying to remove the objects, purchases, and time-consuming practices that don’t add value to my life.
Not having to buy shampoo and travel with it sounds good, especially when you consider how ridiculous modern hair care is. We shampoo our hair to remove the oils, and then we use conditioner to put back some of the moisture removed by the harsh shampoos.
So several years ago when the idea of no shampoo hair care – the so called, “no poo,” movement – took hold, I gave it a shot.
And I failed. Twice.
I didn’t shampoo for more than month each time, but instead of my hair finding some sort of happy equilibrium of nongreasyness, it just stayed oily and kind of started to smell.
So I gave up, and embraced a half measure instead: I started using a vegetable-oil-based bar shampoo that was easy to travel with. It was superior to other shampoos because it removed enough grease to keep my hair in good shape, but didn’t take so much out that it turned into a dry husk I had to add conditioner to.
Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have tried to go without shampoo again if I hadn’t been forced into it by circumstances.
My Accidental No Shampoo Experiment
After spending most of last winter in Mexico away from the convenient Amazon shipping area, I’d run out of my preferred bar shampoo. I’d used the last bit of the bar I’d brought by April 3rd, two days before I was scheduled to fly back to the U.S. and visit my mom in Connecticut.
So for a few days I just didn’t shampoo my hair; I was busy with other things and figured it wasn’t the worst thing in the world if my hair was a bit greasy.
A day of travel through air-conditioned airports and airplanes without showering or my usual intense exercise routine followed.
Although it was April 5th when I arrived in Connecticut, it might as well have been the middle of winter. It was really cold outside, and the central heating – with its dry air – was still on everywhere I went. I also was busy seeing family, and didn’t get around to doing much exercise for awhile.
I think it took me seven or eight days to give my hair any real thought. I felt it and realized that it didn’t feel greasy at all. There had been several days earlier in the week where it did feel greasy, but somehow that seemed to have disappeared.
I shrugged and decided to let the experiment run a little longer.
A month later, I stepped into the shower and realized that I hadn’t shampooed my hair in a long time, and it still wasn’t greasy.
This despite the temperature getting warmer and me returning to my normal exercise routine. I decided to keep going.
As of this writing, it’s been more than six months since I last shampooed my hair, and it’s still fine.
How Do I know My Hair Isn’t Disgusting?
After a few months it occurred to me that maybe I was delusional. After all, I know people who walk around with disgusting body odor they apparently can’t detect, so I might have smelly, really oily hair and not notice.
Since then I’ve periodically checked in with the woman I’m dating, some of my acro partners, and the woman who cuts my hair and asked them for their opinion. All of them were surprised to learn that I don’t shampoo my hair.
The general consensus seems to be that my hair might have slightly more oil than would be considered normal in someone who shampoos their hair, but it doesn’t smell and it’s not unpleasantly greasy.
So I’m pretty satisfied that my hair is in fact not disgusting.
Why Was This Accidental Experiment More Successful Than The Other Failed Experiments That Proceeded It?
I don’t know, but I’ve got a few ideas:
- I’d spent several years using my bar shampoo, which stripped less oil from my hair and may have changed how my body was regulating scalp and hair oiliness.
- The first few weeks after I’d stopped using shampoo were spent in air conditioning or central heating, which results in dryer air. I’ve long observed that hearing and AC dries out my skin a bit, and it may have done the same for my hair/scalp. My previous attempts were done in the summer when I was outside in the humid air and sweating a lot.
- I wasn’t exercising much for the first few weeks without shampoo, which may have changed how oil gets into my hair.
- Some or all of these factors could have bought some time for my body to start better regulating hair oiliness.